A flying leap

Michael, at Þingvellir (Iceland), June 2019

Early this year, I took a giant leap. Well, that’s not exactly true. My family took a giant leap. Together.

Long story short: Two sons with their Dad’s ADHD. One son diagnosed as a high-functioning autist. Another son with a surprisingly combustible mix of anxiety and staggering stubbornness. A move away from my wife’s hometown–and the neighborhood in which she and our boys were raised–to a completely foreign state.

We didn’t plan on moving to Wisconsin. We were looking at moving to somewhere in the Chicagoland area. However, while applying to a position in the northwest suburbs, she was given an offer we, as a family, couldn’t refuse. The only catch is, the full benefits of the job would take a few years to come to fruition.

As a lifelong Illinoisan and Chicagoland native, even grocery runs were an adjustment.

In the meantime, the IEP meetings continued. The appointments and referrals for our boys continued, and the steady stream of calls from schools and daycares continued. After our first school year here was complete, it took less than a week of summer vacation for our daycare–who had told us not nine months prior that they were capable of handling children with special needs–that they couldn’t care for one of our kids.

“But we would hate to lose the other!” we were told. It took more than a little restraint to respond to that with any dignity.

Don’t get me wrong, we have always been aware of the extra time an attention our kids required, which is why we’ve always worked to give our children’s teachers and providers as much support as we can. I remember hearing my parents talking about all the hurdles my mother faced in the 80s and 90s when trying to get schools to provide even the minimum requirements for one of my siblings. I’m relieved to say that any friction we’ve experienced from two districts in two states has been minimal at worst.

But I digress. Late last year, my wife’s partner retired, which meant her time an responsibilities to her clients would nearly double. Up until then, any success we had in managing all the extra requirements was primarily credited to her flexible schedule (the remainder to and my understanding employer).

That was about to change.

Whether it was in a TV newsroom, a marketing company, a startup, a or anything else in between, my jobs have required me to be in front of a computer full-time. What’s more, I was working at an office on the opposite end of Milwaukee County, and driving through the downtown (Marquette) interchange. If something happened at school, if there was an appointment–anything–it would take me at least 30-40 minutes to get there.

(Don’t get me started on the amount of semis here driving in the far left lane during rush hour.)

The choice was rather obvious–but not easy. Dad was going to be a stay-at-home parent. Now, if you say “stay-at-home-dad” to anyone old enough to remember the mid-80s, chances are this came to mind:

In my defense, our washer’s drainage could have been engineered better. But that’s a story for another day.

Oh, the plans we made to make this work. The plans that I made to help ease the stress for my wife, who would become the sole income (and variable to boot) with a new office dynamic. We’d wait until the summer, when the daycare was really needed. I was going to develop a rhythm in which I’d assign all the home chores to specific days of the week. I’d schedule time to make actual three-pot meals that our children with picky palates and medication-inhibited appetites would eat both fresh from the table and as leftovers from the fridge. I’d walk the dogs at least once a day. I’d get in shape. So much meditation.

But you know what they say about plans.

Seriously, I don’t have to say the rest. There are likely a dozen cliches about plans that don’t work out. Pick one and let’s move on.

So, here we are six months after I left my job and officially became a stay-at-home parent. (One month after the intended start of stay-at-home parenthood.) And I’m sitting on my couch, dusting off my barely-visited personal WordPress install, and typing into a netbook with a touchy “H” key.

Why? Multiple reasons, with varying degrees of validity. An account of the gap in my resume. An outlet for some side projects and hobbies that are constantly rattling around in my brain; chalked up to the simultaneous blessing and curse of adult ADHD. A collection of tips, endorsements, and cautionary tales about stay-at-home and special-needs parenting that you never asked for. And more.

If you made it this far, well, thanks. Maybe come back from time to time, and I’ll do my best not to waste yours.